The slightest outward curve is entasis,
employed in ancient buildings by the Greeks
for reasons lost to us. The emphasis

was optical, explained Vitruvius,
but this does not account for the technique:
why are these steps and walls, these lines oblique?

Why do they advance, retreating, to embrace
the thing that stops them coming face to face?
And we the same, old bafflements in place,

as, no longer wed, but not yet free,
we view the edifice that once was we,
and entasis spins out to entropy.

 

 

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 23 Number 2, on page 35
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